March 2010 Archives

Obama's anti-Israel jihad

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From the foreign policy editor of The Australian:

BARACK Obama's anti-Israel jihad is one of the most irresponsible policy lurches by any modern American president. It rightly earns Obama the epithet of the US president least sympathetic to Israel in Israel's history. Jimmy Carter became a great hater of Israel, but only after he left office.
And it gets better.  Read it all here.

Word

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Trust Soccer Dad to synthesize several different but tangential viewpoints and wrap them in an analysis that actually makes sense of the garbage coming out of Washington the last few days.

Sorry, this one can't be excerpted.  It's a must. click. through.  Simply brilliant.

Out of the ashes ... Hurva

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A ruin no longer.

It was previously burnt to the ground in an Arab riot in 1721.  And rebuilt.

300px-Hurva_synagogue.jpg







The Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem, around 1920


Then, again.

hurva destroyed.jpg









Once the Jordanians got done with it




Then the hope, the promise.

hurva arch.jpg








The arch.




And now, finally.

hurva july 2009.jpg










Last summer




And now, rebuilt, rededicated.  Hurva is again a house of prayer.

And the Arabs are rioting again.

8th Annual EATAPETA

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I don't usually eat meat during the day but I made an exception and had a roast beef sandwich for lunch today.

For dinner, S. whomped up an incredibly delicious venison stew.  He got the meat from a buddy at his gun club who bagged more than he could eat or freeze. 

It's a tradition.

Geography lesson

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Question: where is the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo (where a relatively routine zoning approval has now been inflated into an international incident) located?

A scan of the multitude of news stories on the outrage, the affront and the insult ought to give you a clue.  E.g., the CBC:

Canada voiced muted criticism Thursday over the planned expansion of 1,600 new Israeli settlements in disputed East Jerusalem.
The BBC:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sharply rebuked Israel over its recent decision to build new settlements in East Jerusalem.
AFP:

European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday urged Israel to reverse a decision to build new homes in occupied east Jerusalem that she warned could throttle peace talks.
Even the Jerusalem Post:

Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, said that Israel's announcement on building in east Jerusalem during United States Vice President Joe Biden's visit last week was intentional and not coincidental.
So if you answered "East Jerusalem," it would be hard to fault you.  But you'd be wrong.  Ramat Shlomo is due north of Jerusalem.  Not east, not northeast.  Not quite even north-northeast.

Eiferman Properties Ltd. lists homes for sale in Ramat Shlomo.  On this page of its website is a photo and (scroll down) a Google satellite map of the community.  If you zoom out four clicks, you'll get a much clearer idea of where Ramat Shlomo is situated in Jerusalem and specifically with respect to those Arab neighborhoods to which the media usually refers when using the phrase "east Jerusalem."  Although it sounds innocuous, that phrase is loaded, because it's commonly intended to conjure up images of displaced Arabs and Israeli "land grabs."

The new housing in Ramat Shlomo, of course, is neither.  The expansion won't impinge on the nearby Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and, as you can see (or read), Ramat Shlomo is already a thriving community of close to 20,000 people and the new units are intended to accommodate the population's natural growth within the confines of plans that were neither new nor expected to be controversial.

Actually, back to that (zoomed out) map, if you have sharp eyes, you'll see, all the way down at the bottom and slightly to right of center of your screen, two small, flat, white patches with black dots in the middle.  Those would be, respectively, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, which sit at the far eastern edge of the Old City and pretty much define the heart of "east Jerusalem."

Hopefully, this will help to put into graphic perspective Evelyn Gordon's salient point in this important post at Contentions.  Bottom line:

All the parties concerned were understandably upset by the announcement's timing: just as proximity talks were about to begin, and while Vice President Joe Biden was in the region. But substantively, the new construction makes absolutely no difference to the prospects of an agreement -- because any agreement would unquestionably leave this neighborhood in Israel's hands.
Other than the (admittedly) bad timing of its release, this decision has been demagogued to death. And by people who can't even get their geography straight.  It makes you wonder whether they have any idea what they're talking about.

Incoming

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Rachel Corrie's sister says  it was a U.S. government official who first encouraged her family to sue the Israeli government.

I'd love to know who that official was.  Wouldn't you?

Flashback

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Back in the middle of last summer, when Obamacare was just around the next corner, this article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.  It's more timely then ever.

France claims it long ago achieved much of what today's U.S. health-care overhaul is seeking: It covers everyone, and provides what supporters say is high-quality care. But soaring costs are pushing the system into crisis. The result: As Congress fights over whether America should be more like France, the French government is trying to borrow U.S. tactics.

In recent months, France imposed American-style "co-pays" on patients to try to throttle back prescription-drug costs and forced state hospitals to crack down on expenses. "A hospital doesn't need to be money-losing to provide good-quality treatment," President Nicolas Sarkozy thundered in a recent speech to doctors.

It's often pointed out that France's health care system was ranked #1 (in 2001) by the WHO.  And they have a better record of saving lives than the U.S. does.  But in the meantime, the system is under water.

French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, Assurance Maladie, proportionally to their income, and patients get treatment even if they can't pay for it. France spends 11% of national output on health services, compared with 17% in the U.S., and routinely outranks the U.S. in infant mortality and some other health measures.

The problem is that Assurance Maladie has been in the red since 1989. This year the annual shortfall is expected to reach €9.4 billion ($13.5 billion), and €15 billion in 2010, or roughly 10% of its budget.

And this in spite of the fact that France's health care system got to where it is today via a very different path than the one Democrats are planning to drag the U.S. along.  For one thing, France did it incrementally, over decades.  And then there's this:

In France, "If you are in medical care for the money, you'd better change jobs," says Marc Lanfranchi, a general practitioner from Nancy, an eastern town. On the other hand, medical school is paid for by the government, and malpractice insurance is much cheaper.

Is that where we're heading?  Government (i.e., the taxpayers) paying for medical school?  As for med mal insurance, suffice it to say that France's legal system in general is very different from ours.  In addition, France had its own version of "tort reform" several years ago that's, well, just downright alien.

Here's another difference.

Patients can choose their own doctors, and -- unlike the U.S., where private health insurers can have a say -- doctors can prescribe any therapy or drug without approval of the national health insurance.

So much for cost containment.  Yes, the French are pretty happy with their health care system, they pay through the teeth for it and it's been bankrupt for more than a decade.

Anyway, read the whole thing.  Compare and contrast.  It's an interesting profile. 

Hey, the distinguished panel on Fareed Zacharia's show this morning was bemoaning the fact that, while Europeans realistically "expect to die," Americans are less eager to capitulate to that particular reality (hence our wasteful spending in keeping people alive who by all rights ought to be out of our hair).  This is exactly the mindset that's going to inform our health care decisions under Obamacare.  Get ready to capitulate.

Milking it

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Oooooo!  A rebuke!

WASHINGTON -- US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday delivered a stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the government's announcement this week of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem, calling it "a deeply negative signal."

The US State Department said Clinton spoke to Netanyahu by phone for 43 minutes to vent US frustration with Tuesday's announcement that cast a pall over a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden and endangered the indirect peace talks with the Palestinians that the Obama administration had announced just a day earlier.
What part of "Jerusalem is not included in the freeze" did the Obama administration miss?  Or rather, forget?  Because last summer, it sounded like they got it.

JERUSALEM, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has reportedly agreed to exclude east Jerusalem from any future settlement freeze, Israeli and western officials said.

The officials stressed the United States will not endorse the building of Jewish housing in the predominantly Arab part of Jerusalem but will not publicly condemn the construction either, Haaretz said Thursday

What we have here is a failure to communicate. honestly.  And our "partners in peace are loving every minute of it.

Meanwhile, Abbas says talks would have resumed if not for Israel's announcement.
Sure.  Right.  Pull the other one.

Shabbat Shalom.

Brooks channels Ryan

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In an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, David Brooks plays echo to Paul Ryan's summit assessment of the true costs of Obamacare (but no mention of Ryan).  E.g.:

Ryan:

[W]hat has been placed in front of them [the CBO] is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors.
Brooks:

They've stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don't genuinely control runaway spending.

Ryan:

[The Senate bill] does [a] couple of other things. It takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and counts them as offsets. But that's really reserved for Social Security. So either we're double-counting them or we don't intend on paying those Social Security benefits.
Brooks:

There is the Social Security dodge. The bill uses $52 billion in higher Social Security taxes to pay for health care expansion. But if Social Security taxes pay for health care, what pays for Social Security?

Ryan:

It takes $72 billion and claims money from the CLASS Act. That's the long-term care insurance program. It takes the money from premiums that are designed for that benefit and instead counts them as offsets.

The Senate Budget Committee chairman [Kent Conrad] said that this is a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.

Brooks:

There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.

And it goes on, pretty much point for point.  Now Brooks has been critical of the President's approach to health care for quite a while, because he doesn't think it's big enough, "fundamental" enough or change-y enough.  But he's also been on to this cost curve problem all along.  And in some cases, it actually sounds like Ryan might have been channeling him.  E.g.:

Brooks (on the Senate bill, back in December):

The second reason to oppose this bill is that, according to the chief actuary for Medicare, it will cause national health care spending to increase faster.
Ryan:

Well, if you look at your own chief actuary at Medicare, we're bending it [the cost curve] up.
A consensus is building.

Disasters and non-disasters

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Peggy Noonan, at her best: What a disaster looks like.  (Guess who?)

The Wall Street Journal has been a source of much clarity on the health care bill debacle.  Yesterday, it called the Democrats out on their failure to respond to the points Paul Ryan made at the "summit" last Thursday.  Of course, there has been one response ... from Ezra Klein at the WaPo (good of him to step up and give it a shot).  Here's a detailed reply from Rep. Ryan (link via Verum Serum; but, seriously, this ought to be published somewhere more prominent than Ryan's Facebook page).  Those few links provide a lot of insight into some of the critical points of the health care bill debate, if you have the time to wade through them.

Here's an AP article that I found a bit ironic: Scientists defend warning after tsunami nonevent.

Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat, but defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn't get enough warning.

"It's a key point to remember that we cannot end the warnings. Failure to warn is not an option for us," said Dai Lin Wang, an oceanographer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. "We cannot have a situation that we thought was no problem and then it's devastating. That just cannot happen."

Caution is always good, but there's that crying wolf thing.  Alarms become counter-productive when they turn out to be false.  Counter-productive and expensive.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled shorelines for higher ground Saturday in a panic that circled the Pacific Rim after scientists warned 53 nations and territories that a tsunami had been generated by the massive Chilean quake.

It was the largest-scale evacuation in Hawaii in years, if not decades. Emergency sirens blared throughout the day, the Navy moved ships out of Pearl Harbor, and residents hoarded gasoline, food and water in anticipation of a major disaster. Some supermarkets even placed limits on items like Spam because of the panic buying.

You'd think the experts could predict a catastrophic event that was supposedly just a few hours away with more accuracy.  Let alone one that's supposedly a few decades away.  But the fact is, they can't.  There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Shabbat Shalom.

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